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Eviction news

Township hub traders facing eviction

By | Commercial eviction, Eviction news
If you’ve been served with an eviction notice, don’t panic. You have rights and are protected by PIE. We explain the process and we're here to help.

More than 20 businesses trading from a piece of land in the heart of Olievenhoutbosch’s busiest economic hub face being evicted, allegedly to make way for a national food retailer.

The piece of land, located in the centre of Marabastad’s area of the township, is owned by Tshwane Municipality but a company that claims to have a valid lease on the land has issued notice to the traders to vacate the area as, according to the traders, it plans to set up a major retailer there.

The company, Mweusi Mali Maendeleo, which has Chulumanca Nomlomo as its sole director, wrote to the businesses, requesting them to vacate the property.

The letter also acknowledges that the company does not own the land but merely has a lease with the City of Tshwane.

It also gives the occupants 30 days to voluntarily vacate the premises and, according to a number of businesses City Press spoke to, a barbed wired fence was erected to barricade the area. However, it is alleged that criminals within the community removed the fence within a few weeks. “After the fence was taken, we just returned to our businesses,” said one businessperson who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of being victimised.

OLD TRADERS

Most of the businesses that City Press spoke to have been trading in the area for more than a decade and though they have been harassed for bribes by metro police, they have never been told to vacate the land by the municipality, despite not paying rent.

However, according to the municipality, the company that has leased the land is called Green Valleys Project and has different directors to Mweusi.

Questions sent to Mweusi’s lawyers, as well as Nomlomo, were not replied to by the time of going to print.

Attempts to contact the directors of Green Valleys Project were also unsuccessful.

Tshwane municipality spokesperson Lindela Mashigo said the businesses were occupying the land illegally.

“The businesses currently occupying the property are using council property without approval and/or a valid lease agreement and they are therefore illegal occupants. The city is not making any alternative arrangement for these occupants since the use of that property is illegal in the initial instance.

“That is the basis upon which the city is taking steps to evict them. Lawyers for Human Rights has been approached to intervene on their behalf and the city is attending to that aspect through its legal department.

“The property in question has been leased out to Green Valleys Project through an open tender. The said company needs to take occupation of the property and commence with the development as per the award,” Mashigo said.

However, according to Louise du Plessis from Lawyers for Human Rights, the organisation is not handling the matter.

Source: City Press (emphasis by SDLAW*)

*Simon Dippenaar & Associates Inc. is a law firm of specialised eviction attorneys in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, offering expert legal advice and representation to both landlords, and tenants regarding residential, commercial and farm evictions related matters in South Africa.

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Family live on busy roadside for three weeks after eviction from wine farm

By | Eviction news, Farm evictions

Barbara Maregele, GroundUp

Ten members of the May family have been squatting outside the farm gates ever since their eviction, with all their belongings, including couches, mattresses and a cupboard, and only a plastic sheet to cover them. Photo supplied
Ten members of the May family have been squatting outside the farm gates ever since their eviction, with all their belongings, including couches, mattresses and a cupboard, and only a plastic sheet to cover them. Photo supplied

The Mays have been squatting with their belongings and only a plastic sheet to cover them. 

For nearly a month, Zonwabile Alfred May and his nine family members have been living on the R44 roadside near Paarl. They were evicted from the Windmeul Kelder wine farm on March 26, where they had lived for almost 40 years.

The May family have been squatting outside the farm gates ever since the eviction, with all their belongings, including couches, mattresses and a cupboard, with only a plastic sheet covering them.

Elna Brown, who is dating May’s son, Dumsani, said the family were trying to maintain some normality.

“The children are living with my sister so they can still bath and go to school. I’m still attending college and writing exams. It’s hard because we are still sleeping outside,” she said.

Billy Claasen, director of the Rural and Farmworkers Development Organisation, said: “It has been hot, windy, and it has rained, but with God’s grace, the family survives. They are unemployed and in desperate need of funding so they can buy food.”

The family’s troubles began after May was fired for alleged misconduct in 2008.

A two-year legal battle with Windmeul to evict them ended last month. The directors and management of Windmeul Kelder detailed their version of events, making several allegations against May and his family.

The family have repeatedly rejected the Drakenstein Municipality’s offer to house them at the caravan park in New Orleans, Paarl. The building offered to them is not big enough to house ten people and their belongings. The park is already home to over 150 evictees who have been living in tents for over a year. The small brick structure offered to the May family is currently used as a washroom. It often floods due to leaking pipes.

Gerald Esau, director of community services at Drakenstein Municipality, said: “Our offer is still on the table.”

He said the New Orleans Park was the only available option to place families in need of emergency accommodation in the area. He said construction at the municipality’s emergency housing project recently came to an abrupt halt after the property was illegally occupied.

“This area was recently invaded by the surrounding community, who refuse for these evictees to be accommodated in the area. We could therefore only offer New Orleans Park to the Windmeul evictees,” Esau said.

Lawyers representing the family are now gearing up to challenge their eviction in the Randburg Land Claims Court on April 25. They will also be asking the court to evaluate the living conditions of the alternative accommodation offered by the municipality.

Originally published on GroundUp (emphasis by SDLAW*).

Simon Dippenaar & Associates Inc. is a law firm with offices in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban consisting of specialised eviction attorneys and property lawyers. Contact us for eviction help on +27 (0) 86 099 5146 or sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za.

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#ConsumerWatch: Landlords, be wary of violating rights when evicting tenants

By | Eviction news

Changing the locks, removing the front door to your property, sending “heavies” around to collect outstanding rental or to intimidate tenants into moving, cutting electricity and water, or telling tenants to move temporarily because you want to do urgent maintenance/renovations work are some of the more common strategies employed by landlords to get rid of tenants.

Landlords are not allowed to resort to creative ways to get rid of their tenants - by doing so, they only create ammunition for the tenants to delay the eviction process, which costs more time and money. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)
Landlords are not allowed to resort to creative ways to get rid of their tenants – by doing so, they only create ammunition for the tenants to delay the eviction process, which costs more time and money. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Landlords are not allowed to resort to creative ways to get rid of their tenants – by doing so, they only create ammunition for the tenants to delay the eviction process, which costs more time and money. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Most of the above are illegal – and will only land you in trouble as a landlord. But while it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a right to get rid of a troublesome tenant and not allow them to live at your expense, it does mean that you need to do so through a legal court process.

In recent weeks, numerous tenants have complained that their landlords were violating their human rights and seemingly getting away with it. The tenants, due to severe financial issues, had fallen behind on their rentals for a month or two, which is likely to put them in breach of their leases, but two wrongs don’t make a right.

B Khumalo, who lives in Honeydew in Johannesburg, wrote that he had arrived home after picking up his daughter from school, only to find the electricity to his unit had been disconnected. When he asked the caretaker, he was told the landlady had been in the complex and disconnected the electricity herself.

“To date, I have not received the court order that granted the landlord and/or Place de Tetre’s body corporate the right to disconnect electricity or any other services. My family has been subjected to inhumane living conditions since March15.

“We have suffered a huge loss in terms of the perishables that needed refrigeration, including my sickly daughter’s medicine that requires the fridge.”

In Pretoria, B Wentworth and his girlfriend are in a rental property in Val de Grace. Both were recently retrenched and fell behind in rent for two months. So on March8, the landlord sent workers to the property, who knocked down the boundary wall.

“When we asked why this was being done, we were told they wanted to build a better wall in about a day, and the old one was unsafe,” Wentworth said.

A week later, when there was still no wall, they asked about the new wall and were told “no rent, no wall’’.

“As a result of this our lives are in danger and items have been stolen out of our yard. We can’t even do our washing because of theft. Basically, we no longer have security lights (these were stolen) and our car is at risk.

“I know we owe money, but surely this must be wrong? Is there anything I can do, and what are my rights?”

Because the tenant owed the landlord just shy of R10200, the landlord knocked down a wall that probably cost around R1000 a metre.

“I know he is not running a charity but even our water has been cut off,” Wentworth says. Cutting off water is unconstitutional – only the council is permitted to do this, and when it does, there has to be a trickle of supply.

Resorting to creative methods to “smoke” out tenants is actually empowering them legally, because it gives tenants ammunition to delay an eviction.

This further strains the relationship, costs more time and money, and breaches numerous laws:

In terms of the Rental Housing Act (RHA), any person who unlawfully shuts off the utilities to a rental property is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine or imprisonment of up to two years, or to both fine and imprisonment.

A tenant may apply for a spoliation order or an interdict (if their electricity or water was cut off by the landlord, not council). Landlords may not cause electricity supply to be interrupted without a court order.

A spoliation order means that your peaceful possession of an item – in this case, a property – has been unduly disrupted. In essence, this is what happens when someone takes the law into their own hands. The court is likely to grant the order that supply be restored – and the landlord would be found in breach of the RHA.

Changing locks, cutting services or making a property inhabitable, as in Wentworth’s case, amounts to constructive eviction, which is illegal in terms of the RHA.

Being late with rent does not automatically mean the tenant is in breach of the lease agreement – the landlord must act in accordance with the terms of the “breach clause”. Typically, this means the tenant must be given written notice of the breach and given time to remedy the breach.

If the tenant doesn’t rectify the breach within a prescribed notice period, the landlord may cancel the lease agreement and give them 20 business days’ notice to vacate. If they don’t vacate and they’ve been given written notice, they may be considered in illegal occupation – and the eviction process can begin.

For landlords, going the legal route is an expense – they’re already out of pocket and now, to get rid of a problem tenant, they need to incur even more costs. Yet, it’s worth bearing in mind that the aim is to secure your asset, often worth millions of rand. And as part of the eviction order, the court might well grant a cost order against the tenant.

* Georgina Crouth is a consumer watchdog with serious bite. Write to her at consumer@inl.co.za, tweet her @georginacrouth and follow her on Facebook.

Source: IOL (emphasis SDLAW Cape Town Eviction Attorneys**)

**Simon Dippenaar & Associates Inc. (SDLAW) is a law firm of specialised eviction lawyers with offices in Cape Town and Gauteng representing landlords and tenants locally and further afield.

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